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Buffalo State Experts: Educator Sees Benefit of Early Childhood Music Instruction

Buffalo State Experts: Educator Sees Benefit of Early Childhood Music Instruction

Posted: February 1, 2016

As a child, Kerry Renzoni’s mother sang to her every day, often accompanying herself on the guitar. Renzoni danced around the living room to classical music with her father and accompanied both parents to myriad concerts—Paul McCartney one night, the New Haven Symphony Orchestra the next.

“My parents were not trained musicians, but they loved music,” said Renzoni, now a Buffalo State assistant professor of music and coordinator of its undergraduate music education program. “And they encouraged me to explore music.”

For her 10th birthday, Renzoni received a harp and new career possibilities unfolded. When it came time for college, she attended the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY, intending to pursue an orchestral career. However, during her junior year, a professor suggested she consider music education. Although she admitted she had little interest at the time, she participated in Eastman’s community music class for toddlers one auspicious Saturday morning and has never looked back.

“When I sat on the floor with those children and saw the way they connected with music, it changed my life,” ​said Renzoni. “I had no idea that children that young were capable of doing things musically. It was incredible.”

Renzoni not only expanded her focus to music education, she eventually pursued a doctorate in music education from Temple University where she wrote her dissertation on the role of environment in music learning for young children. Prior to that she taught pre-kindergarten through fifth-grade music in Greece, NY, and Orchard Park, NY.

“I was so motivated to be a teacher,” she said. “Teaching actually made me a better harp player.”  

Her ongoing research reveals that immersion into music from infancy through preschool years can help children develop music creativity and music literacy skills. It also opens up new worlds for the child and the teacher and/or the parent.

“Once you sit on the floor with a child and help him or her develop musically, you know why you are working,” said Renzoni, who practically sparkles when she discusses teaching young children. 

“This isn’t about grooming children to become professional musicians or music majors but helping them understand themselves and where they fit into the world.”

After joining the Buffalo State faculty in 2013, she proposed offering music courses to children similar to what Eastman does. School of Arts and Humanities Dean Ben Christy enthusiastically supported the idea and the Buffalo State’s Community Arts Academy is now in its second year, offering music and visual arts classes to children from birth through high school, including three early childhood music and movement classes Renzoni teaches. 

Its popularity is due to word-of-mouth coupled with others touting the connection between early childhood education and student achievement. To Renzoni, music education has a more holistic benefit. 

“First, from birth, all children have a personal pitch they gravitate toward and respond to music through moving their bodies,” she said. “Once you recognize that and make eye contact, you can interact with young children musically. As they grow musically, the melodies they create vocally are very sophisticated.

“Second, in our educational climate, music is one of the last places for children to be children and to develop creative-thinking skills.”

Renzoni is adamant that music remain a vital part of the K-12 curriculum. In her role in the college classroom, Renzoni feels a responsibility to instill in the next generation of teachers not just music skills but also the inherent joy in making music and sharing it with children. 

“Denying music education is denying part of our birth right,” she said. “I don’t think music will disappear from the schools, but we need very strong teachers to ensure that doesn’t happen.”

About Kerry Renzoni
After receiving a bachelor’s degree in harp performance and music education and a master’s degree in music education from the Eastman School of Music, Renzoni taught pre-kindergarten through fifth-grade music in Greece, NY, and Orchard Park, NY. She earned a doctorate from Temple University where she served as lead teacher for the early childhood music foundations program; she also taught in a Head Start program in Philadelphia, PA. Renzoni has presented at numerous conferences and symposiums for music educators and received many accolades including the Presser Music Award in 2011 and the Most Inspiring Professor in the Music Department in 2013–2015.

To schedule an interview, contact Renzoni at (716) 878-6401 or filsinkb@buffalostate.edu.

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